A Sermon for 3 February 2019
A reading from the gospel of Luke 4:21-30. We learn in the verses earlier in chapter 4, that Jesus has been tempted in the wilderness after his baptism that confirmed he is God’s Son. Upon the completion of his wilderness testing, he returns to Galilee filled with the power of the Spirit. He goes to his hometown Nazareth and reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah when gathering with others in the synagogue on the sabbath. Remember: he chooses to read the part from the prophet about the Spirit of the LORD being upon him. Being anointed to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recover the sight of the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor – the year of jubilee! (Luke 4:18-19). Right before the verses we hear today; Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The gospel records that “the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him” (Luke 4:20). Everything was going really good! Then, the reading assigned for today begins. To learn what happens next, listen for God’s word to us in a reading of Luke 4:21-30.
“Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”
This is the word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God!
Well, here we have a very good example of what NOT to do if you ever want to get scheduled again as worship liturgist for the day! Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit after being baptized and tested in the wilderness, Jesus (according to Luke’s chronology of the good news) goes back home. Just in time to gather with his old friends and family for sabbath; he heads to the synagogue for worship. He’s given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah – he doesn’t totally self-select the words he wanted all to hear that day. Finding the part about the one anointed by the Spirit to proclaim God’s favor, he stands erect to read.
Of course, it was a beloved reading! He was standing in the synagogue among those he’d seen all his life. Scraping by on their little plots in Nazareth. Living under the continuous threat of Roman soldiers. Close to the spot in Galilee where foreign armies had invaded the land for centuries – the gateway between Egyptian power to the southwest in Africa; and northern and eastern powers like Syria, Babylon, Persia. Not to mention a Mediterranean boarder vulnerable to invasion by Rome, Greece, anywhere in the Western world. Jesus was a part of this crowd, had grown up in their midst; so that in fact he would have known the joy in their hearts that day in Nazareth to hear again the prophet’s promise from God that an anointed one was coming. Good news was for those crushed under the poverty of foreign oppressors. The favor of the LORD rested upon them all!
Imagine how the day might have went had Jesus left well enough alone. Stopped right there. According to the gospel of Luke’s telling of the events, the issue’s not because of Jesus’ lofty proclamation that he is the One! His downhome folks in the synagogue are mesmerized by him. The graciousness that poured forth from his mouth. What a gift to hear the time had been fulfilled. God’s change is a’coming! But, launching into provocation, Jesus pushes. “Doctor, cure thyself?” he quips. He goes on saying, like: “How about a reminder that God long has seen differently? Like it or not, the outsiders repeatedly are in his examples declare. God brings hope through foreign widows. God heals commanders of invading armies. It’s easy enough to see, Jesus is saying – unless you are totally blind, say like by a mis-guided sense of tribalism. A mis-informed understanding of the way God always has worked. A mis-directed heart that continues to buy into the system’s view of separation. Differentiation. Division between us and them” (paraphrase of Luke 4:24-27). Wanna get hurled off a cliff from an enraged response to God’s way of seeing things? Just point out to people that from the beginning of time God has made us one. As the authors of The Luminous Gospels write: “the return to oneness from twoness (duality) is the ultimate goal in the spiritual evolution of humanity” (The Luminous Gospels: Thomas, Mary Magdalene, and Philip, by Lynn C. Bauman, Ward J. Bauman, Cynthia Bourgeault; Praxis Publishing, 2008; p. 4). Jesus wanted us to see! To know the steps we must take! . . . Hometown folks snap! His words hold a mirror up to their faces. And they are not at all interested in taking a look!
In The Art of Letting Go; Catholic priest, spiritual teacher, and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, Richard Rohr, explains the eyes with which Christ invites us to see. Rohr says: “If I believe Jesus, I believe God is wherever the suffering is. God goes wherever the pain is. . . . I believe awakened and aware people go where the suffering is. Go where people have been excluded. Expelled. Diminished. Abused. And that is where they find God” (The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, Richard Rohr, A Sounds True Audio Learning Course, 2010. Quotes from chapter 2). That is where we see rightly, as Christ sees. No separation between ourselves and another. No separation between God and all. Rohr explains: “I look at the life of Jesus . . . and I gain courage to believe it because of (him). That’s what (he) did. (He) did not live . . . judging and labeling things up or down” (Ibid.). Rohr declares, rather, “Jesus, a bona fide and proud Jew, makes the heroes of almost every one of his parables and stories . . . a non-Jew. . . . Jesus always praises the outsider and critiques the insider” (Ibid.). Rohr invites us to imagine “how different Western history could have been, how different Western religion could have been if . . . we had treated other people with inherent dignity. Inherent respect,” Rohr states (Ibid.). Where we honor and see, as Rohr calls it: “the Divine DNA in everybody else” . . . as equally as we see it in ourselves! (Ibid.).
Can we see the Divine DNA in everybody else, as equally as we see it in ourselves? . . . Think about it. Does the mess of the world begin within ourselves? Because we can’t see in ourselves the indwelling Spirit of God; so, of course, we are not able to see God living in anyone else??? Would Jesus quote that proverb: “Doctor, cure thyself” (Luke 4:23)? Father Rohr wisely concludes: “All awareness. All enlightenment. All aliveness. All transformation begins with an inner awakening: that you recognize your own inherent dignity. (That we see our) DNA is Divine. That,” Rohr states, “moves you . . . to this world of reverence. This view of respect. This attitude of love” (Ibid.).
When we see with those eyes – the Presence within and without, we see as Jesus did. Our dual minds overcome, as two at last become one! . . . It’s not an easy path – we might rather drive him to the cliff to hurl him off in a rage! . . . The gospel of Luke starts Christ’s good news with a story that challenges us to see differently – an act that takes conversion. The inner transformation for which Christ came. The daily discipline of awakening the Spirit within that we will see it in all as well. . . . Here is the good news: to see as Jesus sees. May it be our daily prayer.
In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.
© Copyright JMN – 2019 (all rights reserved).